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Pet Ownership, but Not ACE Inhibitor Therapy, Blunts Home Blood Pressure Responses to Mental Stress

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In the present study, we evaluated the effect of a nonevaluative social support intervention (pet ownership) on blood pressure response to mental stress before and during ACE inhibitor therapy. Forty-eight hypertensive individuals participated in an experiment at home and in the physician's office. Participants were randomized to an experimental group with assignment of pet ownership in addition to lisinopril (20 mg/d) or to a control group with only lisinopril (20 mg/d). On each study day, blood pressure, heart rate, and plasma renin activity were recorded at baseline and after each mental stressor (serial subtraction and speech). Before drug therapy, mean responses to mental stress did not differ significantly between experimental and control groups in heart rate (94 [SD 6.8] versus 93 [6.8] bpm), systolic blood pressure (182 [8.0] versus 181 [8.3] mm Hg), diastolic blood pressure (120 [6.6] versus 119 [7.9] mm Hg), or plasma renin activity (9.4 [0.59] versus 9.3 [0.57] ng. mL(-1). h(-1)). Lisinopril therapy lowered resting blood pressure by approximately 35/20 mm Hg in both groups, but responses to mental stress were significantly lower among pet owners relative to those who only received lisinopril (P<0.0001; heart rate 81 [6.3] versus 91 [6.5] bpm, systolic blood pressure 131 [6.8] versus 141 [7.8] mm Hg, diastolic blood pressure 92 [6.3] versus 100 [6.8] mm Hg, and plasma renin activity 13.9 [0.92] versus 16.1 [0.58] ng. mL(-1). h(-1)). We conclude that ACE inhibitor therapy alone lowers resting blood pressure, whereas increased social support through pet ownership lowers blood pressure response to mental stress.
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Karen Allen, Barbara E. Shykoff and Joseph L. Izzo, Jr
to Mental Stress
Pet Ownership, but Not ACE Inhibitor Therapy, Blunts Home Blood Pressure Responses
Print ISSN: 0194-911X. Online ISSN: 1524-4563
Copyright © 2001 American Heart Association, Inc. All rights reserved.
is published by the American Heart Association, 7272 Greenville Avenue, Dallas, TX 75231Hypertension
2001;38:815-820Hypertension.
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Pet Ownership, but Not ACE Inhibitor Therapy, Blunts
Home Blood Pressure Responses to Mental Stress
Karen Allen, Barbara E. Shykoff, Joseph L. Izzo, Jr
Abstract—In the present study, we evaluated the effect of a nonevaluative social support intervention (pet ownership) on
blood pressure response to mental stress before and during ACE inhibitor therapy. Forty-eight hypertensive individuals
participated in an experiment at home and in the physician’s office. Participants were randomized to an experimental
group with assignment of pet ownership in addition to lisinopril (20 mg/d) or to a control group with only lisinopril (20
mg/d). On each study day, blood pressure, heart rate, and plasma renin activity were recorded at baseline and after each
mental stressor (serial subtraction and speech). Before drug therapy, mean responses to mental stress did not differ
significantly between experimental and control groups in heart rate (94 [SD 6.8] versus 93 [6.8] bpm), systolic blood
pressure (182 [8.0] versus 181 [8.3] mm Hg), diastolic blood pressure (120 [6.6] versus 119 [7.9] mm Hg), or plasma
renin activity (9.4 [0.59] versus 9.3 [0.57] ng · mL
1
·h
1
). Lisinopril therapy lowered resting blood pressure by
35/20 mm Hg in both groups, but responses to mental stress were significantly lower among pet owners relative to
those who only received lisinopril (P0.0001; heart rate 81 [6.3] versus 91 [6.5] bpm, systolic blood pressure 131 [6.8]
versus 141 [7.8] mm Hg, diastolic blood pressure 92 [6.3] versus 100 [6.8] mm Hg, and plasma renin activity 13.9 [0.92]
versus 16.1 [0.58] ng · mL
1
·h
1
). We conclude that ACE inhibitor therapy alone lowers resting blood pressure,
whereas increased social support through pet ownership lowers blood pressure response to mental stress. (Hypertension.
2001;38:815-820.)
Key Words: blood pressure
social support
stress
lifestyle
pets
A
ntihypertensive agents are known to reliably lower
resting blood pressure, but most of these drugs have
little effect on blood pressure responses to physical or mental
stressors.
1,2
Because individuals who experience pronounced,
frequent, or enduring autonomically mediated cardiovascular
responses to stress may be at risk for the development of
cardiovascular disease,
3,4
variables that moderate or mediate
reactivity to stress are important to consider. Several
laboratory- and community-based studies have focused on the
potential role of social support in buffering reactivity to
mental stress
5–9
and have found that when social support
participants are perceived as supportive and nonevaluative, a
beneficial effect is found.
Although considerable attention has been devoted to the
definition and measurement of social support as it relates to
health,
10,11
most of this literature assumes that benefits are
provided only by humans. In recent years, however, several
studies have documented that pet animals also can have an
important supportive role and a positive influence on the
health of their owners. Pet ownership is a significant predictor
of 1-year survival after myocardial infarction.
12,13
Relative to
the support of friends and spouses, the presence of a pet
elicits significantly lower blood pressure and heart rate
reactivity during mental stress.
5
In addition, elderly individ-
uals with pets are buffered from the impact of stressful life
events and make fewer visits to physicians
14
; among persons
with AIDS, pet owners have a lower incidence of depression
than do those without pets.
15
Finally, service dogs have a
positive influence on the well-being, self-esteem, and com-
munity integration of persons with disabilities.
16
In the present study, we extended previous laboratory
stress-reactivity and social support research to include home
data in randomly assigned pet owners administered the ACE
inhibitor lisinopril. We hypothesized that the acquisition of a
pet would reduce heart rate, blood pressure, and renin
responses to psychological stress among a group of hyper-
tensive individuals in a high-stress profession (stockbrokers).
The design we used made it possible to demonstrate the
independence of blood pressure reactivity from basal blood
pressure.
Methods
Participants and Setting
Participants were hypertensive patients with a high-stress occupa-
tion. A pretest-posttest control group design was used
17
in 48
volunteers who had uncomplicated stage II hypertension (resting
blood pressure 160/100 mm Hg). Of the 24 men (18 white and 6
black) and 24 women (18 white and 6 black), all were interested in
Received December 26, 2000; first decision February 23, 2001; revision accepted March 26, 2001.
From the Division of Clinical Pharmacology, Department of Medicine, State University of New York at Buffalo.
Correspondence to Karen Allen, PhD, Division of Clinical Pharmacology, Department of Medicine, State University of New York at Buffalo, Millard
Fillmore Hospital, 3 Gates Circle, Buffalo, NY 14209. E-mail kmallen@acsu.buffalo.edu
© 2001 American Heart Association, Inc.
Hypertension is available at http://www.hypertensionaha.org
815
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stress reduction and agreed to acquire a pet if chosen to do so.
Participants were randomized to a control group without pets (n24)
or an experimental group (n24) who subsequently acquired pets.
Design
All participants completed baseline mental stress sessions in their
homes after 1 month of observation. All participants then were
treated with lisinopril (20 mg/d). Those assigned to the pet owner
group acquired their animals at the time drug therapy began. All
participants were evaluated again at 6 months with a second home
mental stress session. Dependent measures were systolic blood
pressure (SBP), diastolic blood pressure (DBP), heart rate (HR), and
plasma renin activity (PRA). Participant ratings of stress and coping
were assessed both before and after each stressor.
Stressors
Stressors included mental arithmetic task (MAT) and speech, both of
which have been used in numerous laboratories
18
to produce sub-
stantial increases in cardiovascular response.
Physiological Recording Instrument
HR, SBP, and DBP were recorded automatically once each minute
throughout the experiment with a portable Propaq monitor (model
106 EL; Protocol Systems Inc).
Procedures
After participants provided written informed consent, they were
seated in a quiet room, and the Propaq blood pressure cuff was
attached. Resting HR, SBP, DBP, and PRA then were assessed and
recorded. In addition, participants completed a questionnaire about
social support.
19
Later in the same day, participants performed 2
psychologically stressful tasks in their homes according to a standard
laboratory paradigm. HR, SBP, and DBP were recorded once each
minute throughout the experiment. Renin was assessed 3 times (ie,
after the initial rest and after each of the stressful tasks).
After this home experiment, all participants in both the experi-
mental and control groups began lisinopril therapy (20 mg/d) with
the goal of blood pressure within a normal range (130/90 mm Hg).
Black participants also received 12.5 mg/d hydrochlorothiazide. At
the time they began drug therapy, individuals in the experimental
group were instructed to acquire a pet cat or dog.
Six months later, the data collection procedure just described was
repeated (in both the physician’s office and in the homes of
participants). Pet owners performed the second phase of the home
experiment in the presence of their pets, which roamed freely
throughout the room in which data collection took place.
Data Analysis
The main analysis was a repeated measures ANOVA before and
during drug therapy, with tasks (MAT and speech) as within-subjects
factors and pet ownership status and score on self-report social
support scale (categorized as high or low) as between-subjects
factors. All analyses were performed separately for SBP, DBP, HR,
and PRA. Additional repeated measures ANOVAs addressed home
versus office blood pressure values and a comparison of MAT
performance before and with drug therapy and pet ownership.
An expanded Methods section can be found in an online data
supplement available at http://www.hypertensionaha.org.
Results
Physiological Responses: Experimental Findings
ANOVAs for SBP, DBP, and HR revealed that before
individuals began drug therapy or acquired pets, there were
main effects (P0.01) for social support and for tasks (MAT
and speech), as well as for social supporttask interactions,
but no effects by assigned pet ownership status. Before drug
therapy and pets, ANOVA results for PRA also revealed main
effects (P0.01) for MAT and speech but not for social
support.
The Table includes SBP, DBP, HR, and PRA ANOVA
summary data after 6 months with lisinopril and pets; except
for DBP during MAT, main effects are shown for pet
ownership condition as well as social support and tasks for
SBP and DBP. Results for HR and PRA are similar but
include no main effects for social support. In addition, the
Table shows significant 2-way interactions (between pet
condition and tasks and between social support and tasks) for
all dependent variables, as well as 3-way interactions among
Six-Month Results for Lisinopril and Pet Ownership: F Values for Main Effects
and Interactions With SBP, DBP, HR, and PRA
Effect SPB DBP HR PRA
Pet condition
MAT 6.832* 3.33 7.623* 19 431.66*
Speech 7.165* 6.695* 12.228* 28.48*
Social support
MAT 6.125* 4.728* 1497 0.373
Speech 5.232* 5.345* 0.913 0.403
Stressors
MAT 1826.17† 2096.74† 1588.90† 1795.66†
Speech 1314.56† 957.60† 1597.13† 2055.72†
Pet conditionMAT 307.903† 250.01† 229.33† 370.72†
Pet conditionspeech 212.71† 113.48† 237.04† 364.34†
Social supportMAT 63.00† 63.54† 71.92† 0.017
Social supportspeech 33.83† 21.17† 35.76† 0.053
Pet conditionMATsocial support 53.28† 105.52† 89.35† 0.133
Pet conditionspeechsocial support 27.96† 11.86† 35.15† 0.154
*
P
0.05.
P
0.001.
816 Hypertension October 2001
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pet condition, social support, and tasks for all dependent
variables except PRA.
Figure 1 provides SBP and DBP reactivity for each task,
and Figure 2 provides HR and PRA (both before and during
drug therapy). At the beginning of the study, all participants
had stage II hypertension (160/100 mm Hg), and after 6
months, average blood pressures in both the lisinopril-only
and the lisinopril-and-pet groups were within the normal
range. At month 1, MAT and speech elicited significant
increases in physiological responses of both groups. After 6
months, however, relative to those without pets, individuals
with pets had significantly lower reactivity scores; their
reactivity was diminished by half.
Comparisons of Office With Home Blood Pressure
Before participants received the medication and acquired
pets, there was a significant difference between office and
home mean SBP (F2089.36, P0.001) and DBP
(F4499.23, P0.001) values. When individuals were ad-
ministered medication and acquired pets, blood pressure was
again higher in the office than in the home (SBP [F344.94,
P0.001] and DBP [F1657.37, P0.001]). There were no
other main effects associated with these differences.
Performance Data
MAT performance was computed for each participant as a
ratio between the number of correct answers and the number
of attempted answers. We were interested in a comparison of
ratios before participants had received lisinopril and pets with
ratios after participants received lisinopril and acquired pets.
Results revealed a main effect for ratio (F166.90, P0.001)
and an interaction effect for lisinopril and pet ownership
(F140, P0.001.) That is, at the second data collection
point (after the acquisition of pets), pet owners had signifi-
cantly greater improvements in their task performances than
did individuals without pets.
Discussion
In the present study, we examined the effect of pet ownership
on cardiovascular responses to psychological stress among a
group of hypertensive individuals in high-stress professions.
On the basis of these results, we conclude that reactivity and
basal blood pressure are influenced by independent mecha-
nisms; that is, ACE inhibitor therapy lowers only resting
blood pressure, whereas the addition of a social support
intervention lowers responses to stress. These results extend
earlier findings that ACE inhibition fails to diminish BP or
HR responses to stressful tasks
1
to demonstrate a beneficial
influence of social factors that may buffer stress responses for
persons with hypertension who are treated with ACE
inhibitors.
Interestingly, we found that an individual’s assessment of
his or her general social environment was predictive of that
person’s BP and HR responses to stress. Even though we did
not investigate the effect of the presence of friends on
reactivity, participants who perceived that they belonged to a
group and had friends to confide in had a lower reactivity to
stress than did their counterparts who reported few social
Figure 1. SBP and DBP reactivity (mean [SEM]) in response to MAT and speech both before and during lisinopil therapy and the pres-
ence of a pet.
Allen et al Pets Blunt Reactivity 817
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contacts. These results suggest that persons with low social
support systems are likely to benefit in particular from the
enhanced environment that pets can provide.
Improved task performance was also associated with pet
ownership. At the beginning of the study, participants in both
the control group (lisinopril only) and the experimental group
(lisinopril and pet ownership) had 74% correct performance.
At the second data collection point, however, participants
with pets had 92% correct performance, whereas their coun-
terparts without pets remained at 75%. This finding is notable
because improved task performance suggests that participants
did not abandon the task because they perceived their pets to
be pleasant distractions. In addition, although ACE inhibitor
therapy has been associated with either improved or impaired
cognitive function,
20
in our study lisinopril alone did not have
any influence on cognition, and cognitive improvement
occurred only when lisinopril was paired with the presence of
pets.
One explanation for our findings is that the presence of
pets provided the kind of nonevaluative social support that is
critical to buffering physiological responses to stress. Social
support theorists
10,19
have suggested that positive feeling
states may enhance an individual’s capacity to adapt to stress.
We believe that pets may evoke such feelings in their owners.
This conclusion was confirmed by an exit conference in
which the nominal group technique
21
was used to structure
responses to the question, “How has your pet changed your
life?” Interestingly, all of our participants attended this
voluntary meeting, and all dog owners and most cat owners
brought their pets with them to the session. The consensus
response with the highest rating was: “Having this pet makes
me better able to see what is really important and to put things
into perspective.” When asked about increased responsibility
and similar issues, participants responded that the positive
aspects far outweighed any added expense or responsibility
and that they would never give up their pets. Because only
persons who would agree to acquire pets were eligible to
participate in our study, however, we cannot comment on
whether individuals who are not inclined to like animals
would develop similar relationships with pets.
The issue of demand characteristics (expectations uninten-
tionally conveyed from the investigator to the participants) is
an important factor in behavioral research. Consequently, at
the beginning of our project, we did not reveal our hypotheses
about pets but rather said the focus of the study was on the
general relationship between social factors and health. In the
debriefing session at the conclusion of the study, we asked
participants to identify whether they thought pets influenced
their resting blood pressure, their responses to stress, or both.
Except for 2 participants who answered “both,” all said that
they believed their pets helped diminish their resting blood
pressure. This was reinforced by the fact that participants
performed home monitoring over the course of the study and
that lisinopril therapy did in fact cause a dramatic reduction in
blood pressure. The pet owners, however, attributed this
reduction to a combination of drug therapy and pet owner-
Figure 2. HR and PRA reactivity (mean [SEM]) in response to MAT and speech both before and during lisinopril therapy and the pres-
ence of a pet.
818 Hypertension October 2001
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ship. Because of this fortuitous misunderstanding on the part
of our participants, we do not believe that demand character-
istics contributed to our findings about stress responses.
Because the participants (both with and without pets) were
highly motivated to reduce their blood pressure and believed
that the drug would work, however, we cannot totally rule out
that demand characteristics as well as a placebo effect
contributed to their reductions in resting blood pressure. That
is, wanting to please experimenters who came to their homes,
combined with a strong belief in the treatment, could have
influenced responses to lisinopril, although research suggests
that actual placebos have little effect on ambulatory blood
pressure monitoring,
22
so we believe this was unlikely.
We acknowledge that the study population sample was
highly selected for homogeneity. We were interested in
looking at stress responses in a group of individuals who
experienced similar job stress and who lived alone. Because
there were many stockbrokers available who were motivated
to be in a behavioral study and were willing to acquire pets,
we decided to focus on them. Although chronic stress may be
associated with an elevated renin level, we did not select
participants on this basis or for any physiological character-
istic other than stage II hypertension. The baseline PRA that
we report may appear higher than is often observed, but it is
consistent with a previous related study.
1
In addition, our
work supports earlier studies that document a positive rela-
tionship between psychological stress and renin reactivi-
ty.
23,24
In the present study, because the main interest was in
a change from baseline, the reported difference in change
scores between groups is the important area of focus. How-
ever, because it is known that individuals with high renin
levels often have a very positive response to ACE inhibition
therapy,
25
the possibility exists that our findings would
generalize only to other “high-renin” individuals. Among our
participants, the degree of response to lisinopril was consis-
tent with renin response to stress before drug therapy. We can
only speculate whether elevated renin is another manifesta-
tion of generalized neural hormonal activation that likely
includes increased sympathetic nervous system and adreno-
cortical activity.
The present study has several limitations. Although the
study design could have been strengthened by the addition of
an “intervention” placebo group, we did not include one
because of the nature of our social intervention. We do not
believe that a placebo drug would have been equivalent to the
acquisition of a pet. Consequently, we cannot comment
definitively on the possibility that the pet acted as a “placebo
effect” or on the relationship between the power of sugges-
tion and the power of pets. Another limitation of the study is
that because participants had stage II hypertension at the
beginning of the study, it was not ethically possible to
randomly assign only pet ownership for 6 months before
lisinopril therapy. This arm of the design would be especially
important in future investigations among populations with
borderline hypertension, because it would help determine
whether manipulation of the social environment can reduce
the need for drug therapy. Yet another drawback to our study
is that although our findings reveal much about blood
pressure response to acute psychological stress in the home,
we cannot generalize the findings to other stressful settings,
such as work environments. Because differences between
office and home resting blood pressures were not influenced
by pet ownership or lisinopril therapy, it is logical to consider
whether stress reactivity outside the home might also not be
influenced by pets. We believe, however, that because reac-
tivity and resting blood pressure are independent of each
other, reactivity outside the home has the potential to be
influenced by social factors.
In the present study, we were able to change the social
environment of our participants by adding a pet to their lives.
Enhancement of social support with human friends is much
more complex and difficult to achieve and, to our knowledge,
has not been successfully carried out in an experimental
design. Because pets, unlike human friends, are perceived as
always being nonjudgmental and accepting of their owners,
they are ideal candidates for social support intervention.
Physiologically, pets had greater influence on sympathetic
responses than did ACE inhibition alone. Consequently, our
findings suggest that higher center influences can modify
stress responses and that coping skills may be related to
increased cortical inhibition of the brain stem. Although we
do not advocate the substitution of pets for human compan-
ionship, we conclude that for persons who like animals and
have few social contacts, pets can enhance isolated lives and
provide health benefits.
Acknowledgments
This work was supported by Food and Drug Administration grant
FDT-000889 and by the Waltham Center for Pet Nutrition
(Waltham-on-the-Wolds, England). We are very appreciative of
important contributions made to this study by the late Patrick
Murphy, MD.
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... A study by Allen et al. analyzed the impact of having a pet on BP, HR, and plasma renin activity in 48 patients with hypertension who were exposed to stress (mathematical task) [17]. Participants were divided into two groups. ...
... The first received lisinopril (20 mg/day), and the second was given a pet, in addition to lisinopril. Having a pet increased the antihypertensive effect of lisinopril and decreased the HR and plasma renin activity responses to stress ( Fig. 1) [17]. This interventional study provided evidence that having a pet may contribute to better BP control in patients with hypertension. ...
... Effect of a home pet on reducing BP in persons with stress-induced BP increases. Based on[17] ...
Article
Full-text available
Purpose of Review Hypertension prevention and cardiovascular risk reduction are cornerstones in the prevention and treatment of cardiovascular diseases. Potential applicability of nontraditional cardiovascular risk reduction methods, such as pet ownership, raises a growing interest. Recent Findings Studies show that having pets may reduce the risk of death from any cause, particularly from cardiovascular causes. Furthermore, results of some studies indicate that having pets may reduce the risk of developing hypertension and improve blood pressure control in patients with established hypertension. In addition, there is evidence that having pets may improve the prognosis of patients after myocardial infarction and stroke. One of the most important cardioprotective mechanisms of pet ownership is reduction in activity of the sympathetic nervous system. Summary Pet ownership has a positive effect on the cardiovascular system, likely related to antihypertensive and cardioprotective mechanisms.
... Second, this study extends the social support literature by investigating the effect of pet attachment support, as a novel form of social support, on individuals' stressor-strain relationships. Extant social support studies suggest that the benefits of social support largely come from humans (Allen et al., 2001). Although some studies have suggested that cross-species social support offered by pets can have a positive influence in individuals (e.g., Allen et al., 2002), the empirical evidence is still insufficient in terms of how pets could buffer an individual's stressful life crisis and reduce their behavioral and psychological strain reactions. ...
... Pets can serve as a source of calming support by establishing a depth of connection with their owners in times of crisis (e.g., Brooks et al., 2018). In particular, high pet attachment indicates that employee pet owners have a strong bond with their pets, which assists employees to find a life routine and helps employees put things into perspective (Allen et al., 2001). Pets live in the moment (Cusack, 1988), and are relatively available and predictable (Levinson & Mallon, 1997). ...
... Moreover, pet attachment support represents the emotional resources of unconditional, constant, and nonjudgmental comfort that employees could rely on to be recreationally distracted from external worries (Collis & McNicholas, 1998;Zilcha-Mano et al., 2011). Social support literature has suggested that positive affect and positive emotions may help employees react less to perceived stress (Allen et al., 2001;Cohen & Wills, 1985). Pets are always there when owners need to seek emotional support from them, especially in unpredictable external environments (Allen et al., 2002;Zilcha-mano et al., 2011). ...
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Drawing on the transactional theory of stress, the current study investigates whether employee job insecurity triggers employee behavioral strain reactions (i.e., alcohol use, marijuana use, and cigarette use) and psychological strain reactions (i.e., emotional exhaustion and depression) through stress during the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition, we integrate social support theory and expect the moderating role of pet attachment support in the above relationships. By collecting two-wave data from 187 employees with pets in the United States, we found that during the COVID-19 pandemic, stress mediated the relationships between job insecurity and predicted behavioral and psychological reactions. Moreover, pet attachment support buffered the relationships between stress and these behavioral and psychological strain reactions (all except cigarette use). Pet attachment support also alleviated the conditional indirect effects job insecurity had on the two types of strain reactions via stress. We discuss theoretical and practical implications of this study.
... Large epidemiological studies have also revealed that pet owners report fewer physician visits compared to statistically matched non-pet owners 19,20 ; see also 21,22 . In experimental studies, hypertensive stockbrokers who were randomly assigned to a pet ownership condition showed, 6 months later, smaller increases in blood pressure during a stressful task compared to non-pet participants 23 . And pet owners whose pet was made physically or cognitively present (i.e., recalled to memory) reported higher aspirations and greater feelings of www.nature.com/scientificreports/ ...
... Age. Main effects of age emerged on all of the dependent variables (see Table 3), globally showing higher well-being among seniors (65 +), followed by adults , and then by young adults (18)(19)(20)(21)(22)(23)(24) 48 . One interaction emerged on the COVID-related impacts variable, revealing that adult pet owners reported higher COVID-related impacts compared to adult non-pet owners (F(1, 2417) = 10.35, ...
... Area lived in was associated with five of the dependent variables (see Table 4), globally showing in the paired comparisons (all relevant ps ≤ 0.043), that people living in the countryside and in the suburbs reported higher well-being compared to people living in the city. This pattern emerged on loneliness (Ms = 2. 23 0.55, respectively). These main effects observed for area align with findings showing that being surrounded by nature, which is generally more accessible when living in the countryside and the suburbs, is associated with higher well-being 49 . ...
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The question of pet ownership contributing to human well-being has received mixed empirical evidence. This contrasts with the lay intuition that pet ownership contributes positively to wellness. In a large representative sample, we investigate the differences that may exist between pet vs. non-pet owners in terms of their well-being during the COVID-19 pandemic, and examine among different sociodemographic strata, for whom pet ownership can be more vs. less beneficial. A cross-sectional questionnaire survey was conducted among Canadian adults (1220 pet owners, 1204 non-pet owners). Pet owners reported lower well-being than non-pet owners on a majority of well-being indicators; this general pet ownership effect held when accounting for pet species (dogs, cats, other species) and number of pets owned. Compared to owners of other pets, dog owners reported higher well-being. When examining the effect of pet ownership within different socioeconomic strata, being a pet owner was associated with lower well-being among: women; people who have 2 + children living at home; people who are unemployed. Our results offer a counterpoint to popular beliefs emphasising the benefits of pets to human wellness during the COVID-19 pandemic and confirm the importance of accounting for sociodemographic factors to further understand the experience of pet ownership.
... Numerous studies have demonstrated the benefits of pets [38][39][40]. Pet owners, compared with non-owners, are more physically fit [41][42][43][44], have lower levels of depression [45], higher social functioning [46] and enhanced social support [44,45,[47][48][49]]. ...
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Companion dogs are increasingly popular, 38.4% of households in the United States include at least one dog. There are numerous benefits to sharing one’s home with a dog, but because they age more rapidly than people and have shorter lifespans, acquiring a dog often includes caring for it during its senior years. Caring for an elderly dog can be physically and emotionally challenging, yet the impact on guardians’ lives when caring for an aging dog has received minimal scientific attention. This study was designed to better understand dog guardians’ experiences and perceptions related to caring for their aging dog. Utilizing an exploratory mixed methods design, this study asked dog guardians to complete an online anonymous survey. From a total of 284 participants, we found that the impact on guardians when caring for an aging dog appears to share many similarities with caregivers of human family members. Our quantitative and qualitative results suggest that, for many guardians, caring for an aging dog is a complex dynamic with both positive and negative factors that offers an opportunity to deepen the human-animal bond and create positive, rewarding experiences and memories.
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A pet has been shared in the environment many times and also they are bringing major psychological well-being to society. However, dogs and cats were a carrier of microorganisms that are pathogens for human infection, like viral, bacterial, parasitic, and others. From those pathogens are the emerging or re-emerging viral zoonoses for a human being, such as rabies, cowpox, rotaviruses, and others. Bacterial infections include scratches, pasteurellosis, Staphylococcus aureus, Leptospira, and tuberculosis leading to severe cases for people because of the different factors which occur in pet animals. Similarly, parasitic infections including hydatidosis, and leishmaniasis, are also recalled as pet-related zoonotic diseases. Lack of Veterinary care, good personal hygiene and pet hygiene, and absence of health education are the factors such as a risk of zoonotic infection.
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Despite significant treatment advances, many military veterans continue to suffer from posttraumatic stress disorder ( PTSD ) and associated symptoms, suggesting a need for new interventions. This pilot trial examined the change in psychological symptoms of 19 veterans in treatment for PTSD who were randomized either to adopt a dog immediately from a Humane Society shelter ( n = 9) or to a three-month waitlist followed by dog adoption ( n = 10). The dogs were companion dogs, not service animals. The investigators analyzed quantitative assessments using mixed regression models with repeated measures. All veterans also participated in periodic semi-structured interviews. The study results showed companion dog adoption to be a feasible adjunctive intervention that helped improve PTSD and depressive symptoms for most participants. These findings suggest that this is a promising approach that is worthy of further study.
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During two retreats in 2017 and 2020, a group of international scientists convened to explore the Human-Animal Bond. The meetings, hosted by the Wallis Annenberg PetSpace Leadership Institute, took a broad view of the human-dog relationship and how interactions between the two may benefit us medically, psychologically or through their service as working dogs (e.g. guide dogs, explosive detection, search and rescue, cancer detection). This Frontiers’ Special Topic has collated the presentations into a broad collection of 14 theoretical and review papers summarizing the latest research and practice in the historical development of our deepening bond with dogs, the physiological and psychological changes that occur during human-dog interactions (to both humans and dogs) as well as the selection, training and welfare of companion animals and working dogs. The overarching goals of this collection are to contribute to the current standard of understanding of human-animal interaction, suggest future directions in applied research, and to consider the interdisciplinary societal implications of the findings.
Chapter
Kapitel enthält: emotionale, soziale und ethische Aspekte von Berührungen; Placeboeffekte; Embodiment; Haus- und Therapietiere; Einsamkeit. - Abstract: Im medizinischen Kontext können von erforderlichen Berührungen, die einem medizinischen oder pflegerischen Zweck dienen, soziale Berührungen unterschieden werden. Diese, oft spontan auftretenden Berührungen, erfüllen soziale oder emotionale Funktionen. Soziale Berührungen können beruhigend, tröstend, angst-, schmerz- oder stressreduzierend wirken. Es besteht somit die Möglichkeit, soziale Berührungen im medizinischen oder pflegerischen Kontext gezielt zu diesen Zwecken einzusetzen.
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More than half of cancer patients are dealing with moderately severe pain on a monthly basis and most of them report a breakthrough pain experience at least once. Despite the importance of pain management for cancer patients, cancer pain remains undertreated. With computer technology and especially Virtual Reality offering open endless opportunities for pain management, we must consider how low-cost home-based Virtual Reality for cancer patients can be sensitively designed to provide comfortable, enriching pain management experiences. Working closely with 51 cancer patients, medical and paramedical personnel, we co-designed an intelligent personalized mobile application to first collect ecologically momentary assessment data on symptoms like pain and fatigue and Health-Related Quality of Life and subsequently enhance symptom management of cancer patients at home. Through this paper, we thoroughly explain the screening process and quantitative analysis we run to identify which environments patients would like to receive as a Virtual Reality intervention that can facilitate the design of Virtual Reality interventions for cancer patients.
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Social support has consistently been shown to be beneficial for both physiological and psychological health; however the benefits of social support vary greatly depending on how it is defined and measured. Having social ties is consistently linked to lower mortality and better mental health, but specific instances of support are often associated with negative outcomes. This consistent finding is a well‐known paradox in the social support literature: individuals benefit from knowing that support is available but often suffer when it is received. We discuss several theories that attempt to explain the association between social support and multiple health‐related outcomes.
Book
In this groundbreaking work, distinguished contributors explore the myriad relationships between networks of social support and the development, treatment, and rehabilitation of individuals with cardiovascular disease. Chapters span the range from conceptual to methodological issues, and take into account gender, environmental, and cultural differences. The book will provide a wealth of information for clinicians and students in the fields of behavioral medicine, psychophysiology, and cardiovascular disease.
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Objective. —To assess the value of service dogs for people with ambulatory disabilities.Design. —Randomized, controlled clinical trial.Setting. —Environments of study participants.Participants. —Forty-eight individuals with severe and chronic ambulatory disabilities requiring use of wheelchairs who were recruited from advocacy and support groups for persons with muscular dystrophy, multiple sclerosis, traumatic brain injury, and spinal cord injury. Participants were matched on age, sex, marital status, race, and the nature and severity of the disability in order to create 24 pairs. Within each pair, participants were randomly assigned to either the experimental group or a wait-list control group.Intervention. —Experimental group members received trained service dogs 1 month after the study began, and subjects in the wait-list control group received dogs in month 13 of the study.Main Outcome Measures. —Dependent variables evaluated were self-reported assessments of psychological well-being, internal locus of control, community integration, school attendance, part-time work status, self-esteem, marital status, living arrangements, and number of biweekly paid and unpaid assistance hours. Data collection occurred every 6 months over a 2-year period, resulting in five data collection points for all subjects.Results. —Significant positive changes in all but two dependent measures were associated with the presence of a service dog both between and within groups (P<.001). Psychologically, all participants showed substantial improvements in self-esteem, internal locus of control, and psychological well-being within 6 months after receiving their service dog. Socially, all participants showed similar improvements in community integration. Demographically, all participants showed increases in school attendance and/or part-time employment. Economically, all participants showed dramatic decreases in the number of both paid and unpaid assistance hours.Conclusions. —Trained service dogs can be highly beneficial and potentially cost-effective components of independent living for people with physical disabilities.(JAMA. 1996;275:1001-1006)
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This volume is intended as a guide for doing social support research, as a compendium of . . . work in this field, and as a source of information on the implications of existing work for social policy. . . . We focus on nonprofessional (informal) social support provided by friends, relatives, and acquaintances. This book is of special interest to the large interdisciplinary group of research professionals concerned with the role of psychosocial factors in both physical and mental health. It is also of special interest to practitioners involved in the increasing number of programs designed to support or establish natural helping networks. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
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The relationship between electrodermal lability and myocardial reactivity to stress was examined in male undergraduates, who were classified as electrodermally labile (n=19) or stabile (n=19) based on the frequency of nonspecific skin conductance responses at rest. Heart rate, pre-ejection period, cardiac output, and skin conductance responses were recorded at rest, during task instructions, and during two mental arithmetic tasks that varied in level of difficulty. As predicted, labiles exhibited greater myocardial reactivity to the task instructions and the tasks than did stabiles, with more persistent group differences emerging for pre-ejection period and cardiac output than for heart rate. The group differences did not vary as a function of task difficulty, but did decline over time. These results support a positive relationship between electrodermal lability and beta-adrenergic myocardial reactivity to stress, particularly under conditions of task novelty or uncertainty, and suggest that electrodermal lability is related fundamentally to arousal and reactivity processes.
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A perceived availability of social support measure (the ISEL) was designed with independent subscales measuring four separate support functions. In a sample of college students, both perceived availability of social support and number of positive events moderated the relationship between negative life stress and depressive and physical symptomatology. In the case of depressive symptoms, the data fit a “buffering” hypothesis pattern, i.e., they suggest that both social support and positive events protect one from the pathogenic effects of high levels of life stress but are relatively unimportant for those with low levels of stress. In the case of physical symptoms, the data only partially support the buffering hypothesis. Particularly, the data suggest that both social support and positive events protect one from the pathogenic effects of high levels of stress but harm those (i.e., are associated with increased symptomatology) with low levels of stress. Further analyses suggest that self-esteem and appraisal support were primarily responsible for the reported interactions between negative life stress and social support. In contrast, frequency of past social support was not an effective life stress buffer in either the case of depressive or physical symptomatology. Moreover, past support frequency was positively related to physical symptoms and unrelated to depressive symptoms, while perceived availability of support was negatively related to depressive symptoms and unrelated to physical symptoms.